April showers have given way to May flooding, which means that the perfect storm of the Fringe Festival can’t be far behind. Before the annual overload of international acts washes away everything in its path – including this month’s Culture 2 Go arts roundup and next week’s Live Active Cultures column – I wanted to bring attention to some entertainment information that might otherwise be lost in the onrushing theatrical tidal wave.
As mentioned last week, Walt Disney World’s long-awaited Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was finally previewed to the theme park media (except me) last week, a mere three and a half years after plans for the family-friendly roller coaster were first revealed. An official opening date of May 28 was also released, but you can already take a virtual ride thanks to spoiler-filled YouTube videos posted by Orlando Attractions Magazine and ThemeParkReview.com.
In terms of thrills, the two-and-a-half-minute trip sits between the Barnstormer kiddie-coaster and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, with mildly swinging cars and a modest 38-inch height requirement. Interactive arcade games in the queue and high-tech animatronic characters with video-projected facial features inside are emphasized over speed or steep drops.
Unfortunately, capacity may be seriously limited this summer, as 50,000 FastPass+ reservations were reportedly booked within hours of becoming available last Friday morning, causing Disney’s computers to crash. Without a FastPass, expect to spend hours sorting and washing virtual gems in a line whose length will only be exceeded by the one for the Frozen meet-and-greet next door.
Meanwhile, Busch Gardens continues to work toward getting their new Falcon’s Fury drop tower off the ground, after having missed the previously announced May 1 opening date. “Construction issues” caused last month’s media preview to be postponed, and recent torrential rains in Tampa (which put portions of Cheetah Hunt’s track completely underwater) couldn’t have helped matters. But I’m willing to be patient, because a 335-foot face-down freefall really isn’t something you want to cut corners on, safety-wise. Almost as much as the attraction itself, I’m anticipating eating one of the new Pantopia area’s signature bacon pretzels with a craft beer – but not until after my ride!
Finally, employee training for Universal Orlando’s new Wizarding World expansion is already well underway, with testing of Diagon Alley’s attractions expected in the coming weeks. An employee-only sneak preview of exclusive food and souvenirs was conducted last week, presenting magical munchies and goods sure to separate many Muggles from their cash. Eats will include Scotch eggs, fish pies and chocolate-chili ice cream, to be washed down with Wizard and Dragon beers or a steaming train-themed virgin brew. On the shopping side you’ll see talking sorting hats, lifelike Dobby dolls, costumes for Quidditch players and Death Eaters, and even gold bars and coins from Gringotts bank.
The Orlando Ballet, which was left homeless after its former facility was found to be infested with toxic mold, announced plans to relocate into the Loch Haven Park community center, which will get a $5.5 million renovation. Their $1-per-year lease will be a big boon for the Ballet, which is looking at substantially higher rent to perform at the new DPAC.
Even better is the news that the Ballet will “provide low-cost use of the center for community groups and nonprofits to include event, rehearsal or performance space.” I’d love to see all Orlando arts institutions using taxpayer-subsidized facilities (including Shakes and Mad Cow) required to commit a minimum number of hours each month to opening their space at cost to emerging companies that can’t afford their own infrastructure.
Snap Space, the photography gallery inside the historic Cameo Theater on Colonial Drive, debuted their latest exhibit Friday, May 2, with an opening party featuring entertainment by DJ Nigel John and cocktails by Courtesy Bar. Edge of a Dream, which can be viewed during gallery hours (11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Saturday), features images by nationally known photographers Richard Tuschman, Tom Chambers, Wendy Sacks, Heather Evans Smith, Thomas Dodd, Sydney Cash, Kristian Schuller and Elise Bloom.
Lastly, at the risk of stepping on the toes of our food section, I’d like to draw your attention to the inaugural Orlando Soup, inspired by similar events in Chicago and Detroit and happening 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 13, at East End Market. A $7 donation gets you a bowl of vegetarian soup (made from local ingredients by Slow Food Orlando) and a chance to hear pitch presentations for proposed community improvement projects involving technology, art, urban agriculture or social justice. The audience’s favorite proposal receives $5 from each attendee’s ticket and reports back on their progress at a follow-up event.